Ansel Adams - The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1 New York Sunday, April 2, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    From the artist, late 1930s
    Private Collection, Oakland
    Sotheby's, New York, 17 April 2002, lot 17

  • Literature

    Adams, Yosemite, p. 23
    Adams, The Four Seasons in Yosemite, n.p.
    Adams, Illustrated Guide to Yosemite Valley, p. 34, there titled Yosemite Valley from Wawona Tunnel Esplanade
    Stillman, Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs, p. 133
    Szarkowski, Ansel Adams at 100, pl. 87

  • Catalogue Essay

    An additional print of this image is in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

    This rare and early Ansel Adams photograph comes from a small group of prints acquired from Adams by an associate in the 1930s. This trove of 32 photographs, all small in format and nuanced in tonality, was offered at auction in 2002 and was the first significant group of Adams’s early prints to appear on the market at one time. The photographs spurred new interest in Adams’s formative years in Yosemite and presented an opportunity to study his evolving printing style.

    Yosemite Valley served as subject matter for Adams throughout his career, and it is a testament to his skill that he never exhausted the locale’s aesthetic potential during his seven decades of work there, even as his approach and photographic materials changed. In the 1920s, Adams generally favored matte-surface photographic paper, with charcoal-like dark tones and creamy highlights. By the 1930s, he had transitioned – like his fellow Group f/64 colleagues, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham – to paper with a glossier finish, like that seen in the print offered here. Unlike the photographs Adams would make later in his career, which incorporated higher contrast and more dramatic shifts in tone, Yosemite Valley is essentially a study in mid-tones. While absolute whites and deep blacks punctuate the image, it is Adams’s adept handling of the mid-scale gray tonalities and the concentration of detail therein that invite prolonged study.

    The studio label affixed to the reverse of this print’s mount was designed by San Francisco printer Lawton Kennedy in preparation for Adams’s one-man exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s American Place gallery in 1936.

1

Yosemite Valley

circa 1935
Gelatin silver print.
6 3/4 x 9 in. (17.1 x 22.9 cm)
Signed in pencil on the mount; titled in ink on San Francisco credit label (BMFA 4) affixed to the reverse of the mount.

Estimate
$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $28,750

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Caroline Deck
Senior Specialist, Head of Sale

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The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1

New York 3 April 2017